Getting Rid of Pornography: All We Lack Is Will

Newspaper and magazine commentators have served up any number of reasons for the hatred underlying the Sept. 11 attacks.

Many of them say the root of the problem is that the terrorists resent American freedoms and prosperity. I doubt it.

I do not recall demonstrations against the right of Americans to assemble peaceably, to petition for redress of grievances or to engage in free speech. Why should someone in Saudi Arabia care whether you can complain to your alderman without being sent to jail?

Ditto the prosperity argument.

Decades ago, many Americans thought the superiority of our system over the Soviet Union's was established by a count of color-television sets and washing machines. That was dumb then, and it is dumb now to think that a peddler of trinkets in Kabul resents America because we live in houses with piped water and he does not.

The commentators are closer to the truth when they say America is hated in part because of its perceived cultural decay — pornography, immodest dress, and abortion top the list — which it insinuates into societies around the world.

Our freedoms and possessions do not impinge on the lives of those who hate us. Our culture does. If we were serious about returning to the old verities, we would do more than hoist a flag or affix a bumper sticker. We would repent corporately and deeply.

Think how refreshing it would be to do something that would show the whole world, including ourselves, that we have undergone an authentic conversion. However successful America's military campaign against terrorism, long-term peace will not come unless we fix things on the home front.

How about taking just one of the issues that our opponents in Muslim countries cite?

We have been in the midst of a “war against pornography” for several decades. Has anyone noticed any retreat by the enemy? There may have been some improvement in this town or that, but, on the whole, pornography is more widespread today that ever.

Politicians wring their hands, unable to think of what to do to return us to the relatively innocuous atmosphere of, say, the 1950s.

It's easy, folks. Pornography could be eliminated in a matter of weeks, if we could muster the will.

I have a solution. My prescription does not involve another commission. It does not involve deciding at what age young people may appear in pornographic movies. It does not involve moving adult bookstores further away from schools.

Pornography has no right to exist, in any form or at any level.

It involves the radically Christian approach of simply not putting up any longer with the intolerable.

I work from the premise that pornography, being thoroughly immoral, can have no civil justification. It does not have a right to exist, in any form or at any level, and no one can have a right to engage in it or to profit from it. Any profits gained are illicit profits.

I also work from the premise that there is no slippery slope. Getting rid of pornography will not endanger legitimate movies or literature.

Good movies will not disappear if X-rated movies cease to exist.

Good books will not vanish from the shelves if adult bookstores are eliminated. Lines can be drawn: on this side, legitimacy; on that side, illegitimacy.

So here is my simple plan: The president issues an executive order proclaiming that pornography not only is not protected in any way by the Constitution but that pornography is identifiable aside from the ludicrous Supreme Court decisions about having to find a lack of any redeeming social value. The president instructs the civil authorities to seize immediately all the assets of all producers and distributors of pornography. I mean this in two senses.

First, such operations as Playboy and Hustler are shut down overnight.

Their inventory is mulched and recycled. Their physical plants are sold off piecemeal to the highest bidders. Every adult bookstore is closed down and its inventory similarly disposed of. Pornographic movies are confiscated and destroyed.

And then the personal assets of those who have grown rich from pornography are taken. (No one has a right to ill-gotten gains.)

Leave the Hefners and the rest with whatever the bankruptcy courts normally leave petitioners.

The bulk of the pornographers’ assets can be liquidated and the funds used to underwrite, say, chastity programs.

Is my proposal contrary to the First Amendment? As currently interpreted, Yes. But I don't give a hoot about current interpretations. I do give a hoot about truth and beauty and love and common sense, all of which are violated by pornography.

Would the overnight elimination of pornography end the threat from Islamic terrorists?

No, but it would be worth doing even if there had been no Sept. 11.

Karl Keating is founding director of Catholic Answers in El Cajon, California.